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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Hi, this is reporter Eric Boodman, filling in for Shraddha.

More transmissible variant makes vaccinations even more crucial, experts say

There’s a new coronavirus variant that everyone’s talking about: Known as Delta or B.1.617.2, it emerged in India and seems to be the most transmissible version of the pathogen so far. While it might have some ability to get around the body’s post-vaccine protection, those who’ve had full regimens don’t need to be especially worried for themselves, as much of the shots’ efficacy appears to remain even against newer strains. It’s those who aren’t vaccinated who are most at risk — and epidemiologists worry both about lower-income nations that haven’t been able to access the vaccines they need, and about those places in the U.S. where immunization rates have lagged. This makes it even more urgent to get as many people fully vaccinated ASAP. STAT’s Andrew Joseph has more here.

Biden administration to buy 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses to donate globally

The Biden administration will buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and donate them to some 100 countries, the Washington Post first reported yesterday. The number is far below the 11 billion that the WHO estimates are necessary to immunize the globe, but is more than the 80 million that the U.S. had previously pledged to share by the end of June. This new agreement is an attempt to address vaccination disparities between rich and poor nations, which Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, has called a “two-track pandemic”: Countries with plenty of vaccines, like the U.S., have seen the pandemic start to wane, while Haiti, for instance, has not yet vaccinated anyone and its hospitals are overloaded, according to Bloomberg.

A safer, low dose of laughing gas may be enough to help some patients with major depression

If someone’s depression doesn’t improve after two antidepressants, it’s determined to be treatment-resistant — and a new study finds that laughing gas might help. Researchers analyzed 20 patients with treatment-resistant depression, comparing how their symptoms changed with a high dose of laughing gas, a lower dose, or a placebo. The gas was always better than the placebo, but the smaller dose was just as good as the bigger one, and had fewer side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. Though the sample size was small and the vast majority of participants were white, the paper suggests that this substance — which is already used in hospitals as a sedative — could play a role in psychiatry alongside antidepressants, therapy, ketamine, and electroconvulsive therapy.

Inside STAT: As long Covid affects more kids, doctors can't predict who is at risk

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Kate Dardis, 14, of Bloomington, Ill., has long Covid. (John Zich for STAT)

As a 14-year-old gymnast, Kate Dardis has worked through her fair share of pain during daily hours of training. But since January, she’s had body pains and bouts of windedness that just won’t go away. Last month, doctors confirmed that she has post-Covid syndrome, or long Covid — one of the many patients showing this isn’t just a problem in grown-ups. The issue is hard enough to track in adults, but can be even more devilish in kids and teens, who often don’t show the same abnormalities in CT scans and lab tests, despite remaining sick for months. STAT’s Elizabeth Cooney has more in a new story about Dardis’ experience and the tricky science behind it.

FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting to discuss Covid-19 vaccines for kids

The FDA’s vaccine advisers will meet today to discuss what information the agency should request in order to consider authorizing Covid-19 vaccines in kids 11 and under. Already, more than 3.5 million between 12 and 15 have received at least one dose, but for those under 12, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will weigh in on how many kids might need to be enrolled in clinical trials and how much safety data companies might need to provide. The committee won’t discuss specific products, but Moderna told CNN it will likely have data on its vaccine in kids as young as 5 this fall, and will soon apply for authorization for the immunizations of younger teens. The Pfizer-BioNTech shot, already authorized for those 12 and up, is about to start trials for both babies and school-age kids.

Trends in diabetes treatment and control have been worsening or flatlining, study finds

Around 10 years ago, the data on Americans with diabetes seemed optimistic. In a survey of over 6,000 adult patients, the share hitting a target for blood sugar control, for instance, had risen from 44% in the early 2000s to 57% toward the end of the decade. But a new study reports that that figure then declined to 50% in the 2015-2018 period, with a similar trend in blood pressure control. Increases in the percentage of people with controlled cholesterol had flatlined, as did the curve of those on glucose-lowering medication. The findings come with caveats, including declining survey response rates and changing diabetes guidelines during the study period. Blood sugar control is a complex balancing act that can change from patient to patient. Even so, these data suggest an increase in diabetes-related disease that the medical system needs to address.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 20,779
Deaths yesterday: 432

On the latest episode of the “First Opinion Podcast,” STAT’s Pat Skerrett is joined by Corey Feist and Wendy Dean to talk about the toll that practicing medicine can take on a health worker’s mental health, and how the pandemic has made this worse. Listen here.

What to read around the web today

  • As India’s pandemic surge eases, a race begins to prepare for a possible next wave. Washington Post
  • The fundamental question of the pandemic is shifting. The Atlantic
  • WTO members agree to step up talks about Covid-19 intellectual property proposals. STAT+
  • Access to GPs’ patient data key to new treatments, researchers say. The Guardian
  • ‘Some very noble, some less than noble’: The growing health data marketplace sparks privacy concerns. STAT+

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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